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News > First Army prepares to serve as trainer mentor team in Afghanistan
First Army prepares to serve as trainer mentor team in Afghanistan

Posted 5/16/2011   Updated 5/16/2011 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Antonia Greene
174th Infantry Brigade Public Affairs

5/16/2011 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- More than 30 Soldiers assigned to First Army are preparing for deployment as trainer mentors in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan. The Trainer Mentor Team is conducting its mobilization training here at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and is scheduled to depart for its six-month deployment in the coming days.

Being on the other side of the mission, as trainees rather than administering the training, is a new role for most of the regular Army Soldiers. The training and readiness of troops has long been the responsibility of First Army. It dates back to the training of National Guard troops to lead an American Expeditionary Force alongside the standing Army under Gen. John J. Pershing in World War I. Nearly a century later, active duty First Army Soldiers again teamed up with their Reserve and National Guard comrades, this time for a theater-security cooperation mission headed by NATO.

Similar to its Reserve and National Guard counterparts currently undergoing training here as Task Force Scorpion, the First Army TMT is also tasked to support the NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan command. Half of the TMT Soldiers are from First Army Division East stations and the remaining half are First Army Division West Soldiers. The TMT is comprised of both officers and enlisted ranging from the rank of lieutenant colonel to sergeant first class. These men were mostly hand-picked by the command and exemplify the experience and expertise necessary for the mission.

The Division West team is made up of combat support and combat service support Soldiers and is tasked with training and mentoring headquarters support elements at the battalion and company levels. At the same time, the Division East TMT is tasked with a combat arms mission, and is comprised of primarily Infantry Soldiers and a few tankers. Lt. Col. Michael Hickman, Division East TMT Officer-in-Charge who was last assigned as commander of 3rd Battalion, 347th Regiment, 158th Infantry Brigade at Camp Shelby, Miss., explains his team's mission in theater.

"It's part of the push to train the Afghan forces to take over the mission there," said Hickman. "We will work more intimately alongside the Afghan boot on the ground; for instance, I will team up with an Afghan battalion commander at the forward operating base level."

The TMT is also tasked with sending weekly situational reports with lessons learned and best practices back to its First Army comrades in the states. These reports will help extend the latest tactics, techniques and procedures for training mobilized servicemembers for similar missions.

One such trainer mentor on the Division East TMT is Sgt. 1st Class Walter Peterson, an infantryman from Fayetteville, N.C with more than six combat tours. Peterson, who has served in the Army for 24 years, was the only First Army Soldier from Fort Bragg selected for this mission. His last overseas assignment was in Afghanistan where his unit conducted typical Infantry company-squad level operations, including cordon and search and presence patrol missions.

"This mission felt like a good fit for me," said Peterson. "I'm going to get away from the old-war mentality and focus on developing Afghan NCO leader skills."

Peterson is referencing the old-military structure whereby officers made all the decisions and noncommissioned officers simply followed orders. This is precisely the mentality the U.S. military wants the Afghans to reject. Empowering noncommissioned officers to plan and execute operations accelerates leader development in the Afghan National Security Forces and strengthens the military overall.

"To integrate the Afghan noncommissioned officers as leaders, guiding them in their plans and operations, I will make this last one count," Peterson expressed.

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